MARTINEZ -- A group of concerned parents is urging the Martinez Unified School District to limit the use of potentially harmful pesticides on landscaping and inside classrooms.
The parents want the school board to adopt an integrated pest management plan, calling for the least toxic methods possible to control weeds, insects and vermin. For example, rather than spraying chemicals, maintenance staff could remove dandelions by hand.
"As a parent, I do what I can to make sure we make healthy and safe choices at home," said Wendy Ke, whose daughter is in kindergarten at John Swett Elementary. "I wanted to make sure the district is making good choices."
On Monday, the school board is scheduled to discuss creating an advisory committee to develop a policy and budget related to integrated pest management. The meeting is 6:30 p.m. at the district office, 921 Susana St.
Under state law, at the beginning of each school year districts must tell parents which pesticides are likely to be used on campuses. In August, the Martinez school district sent a letter listing the herbicides Round Up Pro, Turflon Ester, Gallery 75 Dry Flowable and Surflan.
These products contain known and probable carcinogens, toxins and ingredients that may disrupt the body's hormones or reproductive system, according to Pesticide Watch, a California advocacy group. Children may be especially sensitive to health risks associated with pesticides because their internal organs are still developing, they eat and drink more than adults relative to their body weight, and they have more exposure to pesticides because they play on floors and lawns and tend to put things in their mouths, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Advocates believe pesticide exposure may contribute to cancer, autism, asthma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and birth defects among children. Parents who are worried about pesticide exposure are asking districts to use nontoxic methods to control pests and weeds because children spend most of their time at school during a crucial stage of their neurological and physical development.
"It's not a matter of the amount of pesticides but the window of time and age when you are exposed," said Dana Perls, community organizer with Pesticide Watch.
She pointed out that inside school buildings, fumigants can linger in carpets and on hard surfaces such as desks.
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.